The Chemistry of Strategy tm Newsletter February 21, 2013

"People chemistry" matters

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"We lost another new engineering hire." Jim said. "This is the third time we've tried to fill that position! I don't understand why Doug didn't work out -- we thought he was the perfect candidate." 

Doug's experience was exactly what they needed. He had been interviewed by everybody. He had accepted the job with obvious excitement. Yet within days of Doug starting the job, everyone realized that hiring him was a mistake.

What was missing? Chemistry between Doug and the other people in the company.

Combine the silver-colored metal sodium and the poisonous, yellow-green gas chlorine under the right conditions and like magic, you produce table salt and a great deal of heat energy. That’s a result of their chemistry.

The chemistry, or lack thereof, between the individuals in an organization can produce grand success or blow the place up. When there is chemistry in a relationship, people can talk about anything and everything together. They have the same values and purpose. They share the same long-term goals.

It is the organization’s people who ultimately implement its strategy. Without organizational chemistry, they can’t or won’t hear, understand, and embrace the “what” part of the company's goals and strategy. Without supportive interpersonal chemistry, they won’t be able to develop the “how” of the strategy and be empowered to execute it.

Resumes and the experience they purport to convey are less important when hiring than:

  • Aptitude: enough grey matter to be able to master the skills needed in the job.

  • Attitude: the discipline and passion to invest whatever it takes to master the job.

  • Chemistry: shared values and ability to build and sustain relationships with the organization's people.

After much discussion, Jim made two enhancements to his company's recruiting process:

  • The managers doing the interviewing were coached on how to better judge the candidate's fit with company strategy and values.

  • Jim instituted a firm "90-day warranty" period. If it becomes clear within the first 90 days that a new hire doesn't fit, they let him go. Experience suggests that the fit never gets better with time.

Identifying the presence or lack of chemistry requires that an organization is self-aware of its core values, purpose, and strategy. These should be documented in the strategic plan. Be forewarned, however, as I've been told by HR specialists that even with exceptional pre-hire reviews, you should expect to hire three candidates for every two you end up retaining. This makes cutting your losses as soon as possible even more important.   

Create a strategic plan with your team

"Management is doing things right,
leadership is doing the right things." -Peter Drucker

Designing the best strategic plan requires balancing competing considerations. The more issues that go into the plan the higher its integrity. The best way to raise, understand, and balance issues is through a facilitated strategic planning process.

How long have you been saying that you are going to develop your strategic plan, but you haven't yet done so? Why? Perhaps it remains on your to-do list because it feels like a huge, laborious process and you haven't the time to spare to do it. Peak-performing companies have a clearly defined strategic plan…and it doesn't have to take long to create an effective one.

Your executive team costs you over a million dollars a year. Are you fully utilizing them? It's a waste of time and money to create a plan that they don't own and implement.

John W. Myrna

is co-founder of
Myrna Associates Inc


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John Recommends

Job Applicants' Cultural Fit Can Trump Qualifications
by Logan Hill

In this Businessweek article, Hill discusses how some companies have decided that a cooperative, creative atmosphere can make workdays more tolerable and head off problems before they begin.

Hill relates how hiring is the moment when American ideals about team diversity collide with the practical reality of building a cohesive staff.


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John loves to share his insights. Email him if you'd like to have him speak at your next meeting.
success@myrna.com


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